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    Dirty Places, Part 6: Dirty Movies

    Movie theaters can be a major source of infectious disease spread. Theaters are crowded, often with people who may be ill. Children’s movies are probably worse if anyone ever chose to test this assumption. Since many viral infectious diseases are contagious a day BEFORE you know you are sick, microorganisms can be innocently spread.

    I can’t imagine how many people use those same seats day after day without any disinfectant ever touching them. I would be shocked if those seats and seat arms are ever cleaned. During the winter cold and flu season, it is not uncommon to hear a cacophony of coughs echoing throughout the auditorium. An uncovered cough or sneeze can spray fresh microorganisms several rows away.

    This is not an innocent spread of disease, but rather a form of urban biological terrorism. During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, movie theaters in all major cities were closed.

    Then, of course, there are the movie bathrooms that literally see a stampede of yellow-eyed urinators after each movie. In most theaters, the bathrooms are surprisingly clean-looking, but germ-laden nonetheless. My personal experience is limited to the men’s room, which I rarely use.

    Because of my childhood days of having outhouses at our Junior High School, I have developed an iron bladder, but after those huge .00 colas, even iron bladders starts to strain. It is fortunate that men’s urinals are much more hygienic than sitting on a toilet seat – a distinct anatomical advantage that men enjoy.

    Dave Barry wrote a piece about urinal etiquette that I would like to share. He talked about a bank of five urinals – A, B, C, D, and E. The first man enters and goes to urinal A (or E). The next man automatically heads for the one on the opposite end. Man #3 will go to urinal C. If a 4th man approaches the bank of urinals, he may likely hesitate using urinals B and D, often called the “buffer urinals”, and may be forced to use the more-contaminated and much-feared stall.

    The floors surrounding the urinals and the stalls are usually sticky with stray pee, often the result of visual impaired men with poor aim, or boys who really don’t care. Urine is considered sterile, but no one really wants to step on it, look at it, smell it, or have their shoes stick to it.

    It would take a dire intestinal emergency for a man to sit on the toilet, which is usually not flushed. There is nothing worse than a toilet not flushed, except maybe, a warm toilet seat recently vacated by a dubious-looking guy. Those paper seat covers do not work with those automatic flushing toilets. Every time that you carefully lay out that thin, paper seat cover, it flushes before you get to use it.

    Movie-users are not big hand-washers (I notice these things). Either they are rushing back to the movie, or trying to avoid the traffic jam in the parking lot, but that two-second cosmetic wash is not going to do anything. Bathroom stall door locks have got to be one of the more contaminated areas of the movie toilet, namely because they are always opened with unwashed fingers.

    It makes sense to only open these doors with a wad of toilet paper. Bathroom doors always open inward, so you would need to grab on that worn, metal door handle in order to exit, OR, you patiently wait until someone comes in and then you can jump through the door before it closes again. I have gotten many a stare as I leap through those brief openings. If no one comes in, I have to open it with some paper towels (assuming there are paper towels and not that worthless hand dryer).

    Since I work 12 hour shifts in my clinic, I have two days off during the week. If I choose to go to a movie, I will do it during one of these mid-week afternoons when the crowds are sparse and kids are in school. Not only is the theater nearly empty, I can have a choice of seats without fear of a tall, big-haired person plopping in front of me, or some very obese person encroaching into my seat space.

    By the way, in absence of a buffer seat, which seat arm is really considered yours? I can usually out-maneuver my wife, but strangers are a different matter. I guess you just have to wait until they move their arm and quickly take possession.

    Disease prevention can be as easy as 1-2-3.

    1. Wash and sanitize your hands frequently. Avoid touching your eyes or nose — major entry points for disease organisms.
    2. Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Droplets can travel four feet.
    3. If you are ill, stay home and watch a DVD.

    And, if you do get sick, just tell your medical provider that you must have caught it at a dirty movie.

    Related Topics: Academy-Award Winning Movie Snacks, Top 9 Jobs Where Bacteria Thrive

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    If you’re just now joining us, you’ll want to read Public Toilets (part 1), Airplanes (part 2), Your Doctor’s Office (part 3), Hotels and Motels (part 4), and Restaurants (part 5)

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